Causes of a Bloating Stomach

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Stomach bloating can result from numerous medical conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Bloating is a subjective sensation that the abdomen is larger than normal." As a result, pains, nausea and cramps are also commonly associated with stomach bloating. While many cases are the result of digestion or intolerance to food, other examples of stomach bloating may be the result of a larger medical problem. Learn the most common causes of stomach bloating among adults and children.

Man experiencing bloating pain
Man experiencing bloating pain (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

According to FlatStomachExercies.com, "Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, bloating and changes in bowel habits." Common among women (approximately 75 percent of all cases), male and female sufferers may go undiagnosed for years as symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed or ignored in mild to moderate cases. Common causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome include foods like wheat, chocolate and milk products, caffeine and stress. Once diagnosed, sufferers can use over-the-counter medication to treat and prevent symptoms. For severe cases, prescription medications are also available.

Woman with stomach cramps
Woman with stomach cramps (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Food Intolerance

Food intolerance is a common condition for many adults and children. Dairy products, nuts, gluten, wheat and sugar are commonly reported as the number-one foods associated with food intolerance. In addition to bloating, sufferers also experience gas, cramps, and nausea. According to WebMD.com, "There are many factors that may contribute to food intolerance. In some cases, as with lactose intolerance, the person lacks the chemicals, called enzymes, necessary to properly digest certain proteins found in food." Other causes include chemicals, dyes and flavor enhancers.

Woman with upset stomach in bed
Woman with upset stomach in bed (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Gas

Intestinal gas is characterized by belching, bloating, and flatulence. It is generally the result of air that has been swallowed and then trapped in the stomach. Gas can also occur during the digestion process as stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. According to the Mayo Clinic, "When gas doesn't pass through belching or flatulence, it can build up in the stomach and intestines and lead to bloating." Reducing the intake of gas-causing foods and eating more slowly can limit intestinal gas, thereby reducing stomach bloating.

Woman holding abdomen
Woman holding abdomen (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Menstruation

Menstruation can cause stomach bloating prior to, during and after menstruation. According to St. Luke's hospital, bloating associated with menstruation can be dramatically reduced with exercise and fiber-rich foods. The hospital's website advises, "If you have bloating associated with your menstrual cycle, exercise to sweat out excess fluids and eat more high-fiber foods to help prevent constipation." In most cases, stomach bloating is common and is generally not a sign of a medical disorder.

Woman laying down
Woman laying down (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Warning

Never self-diagnose a medical condition. Even symptoms as non-threatening as stomach bloating can be indicative of larger health problems. Always consult a physician for chronic or severe stomach bloating. Be sure to provide information regarding its frequency and the level of discomfort and duration. If possible, record any foods, beverages or medications consumed prior to each incidence.

Woman with water bottle
Woman with water bottle (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

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